The skies just opened up for aviation students in the region thanks to an expanded partnership between Metropolitan State University of Denver and Colorado Northwestern Community College.
The enhanced agreement opens another, much-closer airport for Denver-area students enrolled in MSU Denver’s aviation program, and reduces the number of flight hours required to get in the air from 1,500 hours to 1,250 hours, assuming certain standards are met.
The airline industry is currently facing a pilot shortage that industry experts worry could cause longterm global damage like price increases and even reductions in routes.
“Commercial airlines, especially regional carriers, are facing growing challenges with identifying qualified candidates to fill needed pilot positions,” said Jeffrey Forrest, professor and chair of the MSU Denver Aviation and Aerospace Science Department in a release. “This agreement enables us to offer students additional options for flight training and academics, while addressing the latest update to FAA pilot-qualification standards.”
The relationship between MSU Denver and CNCC is about four years old. In its original form it simply allowed students from both schools to enroll in classes at either institution while gaining flight training at a rate 10 to 15 percent lower than that of a traditional flight school. Much of that training, though, had to be performed at Rangely Airport, which houses CNCC’s flight program, and is a five-hour drive from Denver.
The new articulation agreement includes the leasing of an existing 1,300-square-foot facility at Front Range Airport in Watkins, which is a comparably short drive at 45 minutes from MSU Denver. The facility will serve as a joint academic facility, with classrooms and office space for flight instructors, and include hangar space for three CNCC aircraft. MSU Denver plans on moving a flight simulator to the airport as well.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently approved a commercial spaceport license for Front Range Airport, and that will likely create future possibilities for relationships between both schools and the aviation industry.
MSU Denver has inked deals with Lockheed Martin, United Airlines, York Space Systems and even the Environmental Protection Agency in recent years.
MSU Denver’s president, former Air Force pilot and Undersecretary of the Navy Janine Davidson last year told Denver Business Journal she’s looking to forge even more ties with the private sector to beef up the school’s aerospace and other programs.
2013 Federal Aviation Administration rules require pilots and co-pilots who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines to have 1,500 hours of flight experience under their belt. The new agreement reduces that requirement to 1,250 hours for students who follow all required FAA regulations to obtain a restricted Airline Transport Pilot certificate. A restricted privileges ATP certificate allows a pilot to serve as a co-pilot until he or she obtains the required 1,500 hours.
“This is a great example of a collaborative effort between two of Colorado’s premier aviation learning institutions to provide an enhanced pilot training program for students,” said David Boles, CNCC aviation program director in the statement. “We are establishing a bridge that helps improve access and address education needs from Colorado’s Western Slop to the Front Range.”